It may be legal, but that doesn't make it right.
Zoos are neither "appropriate" nor "acceptable" for wild African elephants. Life in a zoo is a prison sentence. In the wild, these animals form matriarchal herds with grandmothers, daughters, granddaughters, aunts, nieces, and cousins all living together for 50, 60, 70 years. No cement. No bars. No forced partnerships. No shipment from one place to another. Just freedom and family.
And now, we've received the shocking news that one of the baby elephants captured as part of this transfer has already died. The remains were gruesomely sliced and shared with villagers for food. Such a tragedy-and an entirely preventable one, at that.
The animals who do survive the capture and transit end up suffering shortened lives in captivity. Elephants in particular are highly intelligent animals with complex social lives. Young calves are heavily reliant on their mothers for a long period, and may not be fully weaned for up to 10 years. Individuals removed from their herds at a young age to be confined in captivity, whether alone or in inappropriate social groups, suffer extreme stress. Many calves die within a short time frame, and the surviving elephants typically develop a wide range of problems, including unnatural behavior, heightened aggression, and increased susceptibility to diseases such as tuberculosis. Their forced removal will also have a profound impact on their remaining family members; we can only imagine the sense of confusion, loss, and mourning that will result.